SEOUL, May 10, 2017 - A milestone congress for the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), a new elected president for South Korea and a remarkable presence and speech from IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe inaugurated the 80th AIPS Congress held this year in Seoul and PyeongChang, host city of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics.


More than 200 sports journalists, delegates and guests from over 100 countries are in attendance at the annual global summit of sports journalism.


In his opening speech, AIPS president Gianni Merlo stressed that this congress comes at a time where journalism is going through a difficult time with online journalism affecting newspaper, radio and TV, amid corruption and doping scandals affecting sport itself.


- We see self-interest in news coverage; some clubs refuse accreditations of journalists just because they criticize them. With doping issues, credibility is at stake. Corruption has existed in the world of sports sine long time and doping became a cancer beginning 1980s. We hope that in 2017 we will fight more to defend our rights and freedom of expression - Merlo said.


The AIPS president showed no sympathy towards those who could be caught doing wrong. “The good news is that we are optimistic because we believe in the professionalism of our colleagues around the world. There will be no space among us for corruption, and we find someone corrupted he will be kicked out and excluded, there will be no mercy.”


In recent months, South Korea has seen the arrest of its ousted former president, received threats from a nuclear-armed neighbor amid fears of “imminent war” with North Korea. “Some of you were worried about coming here due to the global political situation, but here we are holding our congress in great conditions,’ Merlo concluded.


IOC and AIPS: a long friendship


The president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach who couldn’t be present at the Congress had a message to send from afar.


“A lot of changes happened since Paris1924 where AIPS first Congress took place but the important role of the press in promoting sport and Olympic Games in the world did not change. The founder of the Olympic movement Pierre de Coubertin was a French journalist and a close friend to AIPS co-founder and compatriot Franz Reichel. With less than a year to go for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, you could not have chosen a better place to hold the congress to bring the spirit back to Korea.”


Coe’s triangle


In an interesting and powerful speech, IAAF president Sebastian Coe presented the three points of the “triangle” that every journalist and investigator should look at: Relevance, trust and leadership.


Relevance: “It is not only about looking at ourselves but also at what it is around us. We talk about millenniums and young generations who want to fulfill their ambitions. It is about behavior. The online world is powerful and distracted.”


Trust: ‘Sport has lost a lot of trust, all of you know that, athletics more than most, in both administration and track. In less than eight month we rewrote the constitution of our sports, we made 200 changes. Some of them were about setting standards for global representation. How we want people to behave and act? IAAF launched few weeks ago the Integrity Union to help us in the transparency we are looking after so everyone could look in and satisfy themselves that everything is going according to plan. Will the cheating stop? No, people will always cheat but we should show them that is not tolerated which will bring back trust.”


Leadership: “athletes crave criticism, but also leadership. Its definition is no longer clear. Should we let people do what we want or stop them of doing what we don’t want? One thing is worth of bad leadership is the stories about failures. I learnt much more from races I lost than the ones I won. There is no longer a unified structure, it is about members, stakeholders, athletes… leaders of the future will be chosen by their actions.”


Track and field athletes were hit by doping scandals over the past few years which put IAAF in front and ahead of other international federations to be the first to fight this “enemy”.


Former 800m world record holder said: “When sports is going through  a crisis of confidence, we are all compelled to rebuild and repair it  quickly. I don’t think that sport is fighting for its life, it is stronger than  that, otherwise it wouldn’t have survived over the centuries. And it is  not only about IAAF and athletics but all sports.”

‘There is no greater companion for an athlete than the press, who are  there in the good and the bad, and AIPS have been fighting in the    corner of the global sports press for decades.’ he concluded.


PyeongChang and Tokyo: Olympic optimism


With less than nine months to go to the Winter Olympics, South Korea’s IOC member Seung Min Ryu was full of hope ahead of the much-anticipated event.


He said: “We are less than a year away from the World Olympic Games. With the election of the new president there will be a brighter future. We promise a safe and comfortable environment in the Games just like our previous events. Safety in the sites and venues will be the best possible.


“We understand the importance of the press in the Games and we will take your suggestions to make them better. It has been 30 years, since Seoul 1988, that we hadn’t hosted the Olympics. Every citizen and stakeholder will bring their passion. The LOC and IOC will do their best for the Games to be successful, share with us your knowledge and advice to help us with the best you can.”


Ryo Nishimura and Tatsuo Ogura from Tokyo 2020 took the stage to speak about the communications and press services at the next Summer Olympic Games.


“Tokyo 2020 is on track to deliver the most innovative Games in history, which will have a transformative legacy in Japan and around the world. We will provide the journalists the best conditions ever to cover the event. We already have great relationships with AIPS and we expect better relationships in the next three years.”


IOC Press Chief Anthony Edgar expressed the IOC’s optimism towards PyeongChang 2018 saying that it’s the first time that rooms and beds for journalists are sold out for the Games.


“We are expecting excellent Games. Not everything is perfect but we are still nine months away. Venues are finished and in a very good shape. There is an increase of media presence and people buying rooms, which shows Asia influence on the Olympics. 500 beds were sold in PyeongChang more than Sochi; everyone is looking for more beds. That’s first time that it is sold out. We have 14 000 accredited media coming to the Games.


IJF joins AIPS family


The International Judo Federation (IJF), a new AIPS partner and Head of Media Nicolas Messner spoke about the importance of this agreement that will give easier access to AIPS members to their events and facilitate their work especially with the upcoming World Championships in Budapest in August and September which will gather more than 700 judokas from around the world.


Messner also explained that IJF has applied for a team event in Tokyo 2020, a mix team of 3 men and 3 women and are waiting answer from IOC stressing the positive impact of Judo on society and people’s life.


Christian Pierre from the International University Sports Federation (FISU) spoke about the success of the International Day of University Sports proclaimed by UNESCO (September 20) highlighting the goals of promoting youth in the world of sport that FISU and AIPS share ahead of the big event next August in Chinese Taipei: Summer Universiade.


by Rayane Moussallem, AIPS Media, Photo: Andrea Giannini &Sonja Nikcevic/AIPS